Education funding in developed countries varies significantly. According to figures published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the US education spend amounts to approximately $29,328 per capita, which is by far the highest spend among G7 countries.
Education spending in the US was recorded since the beginning of the 20th century at around 1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), climbing to 3 per cent before World War II and declining rapidly from the middle of the 20th century until the 80s, where it began to climb rapidly. In recent years education spending has again declined and it is predicted to continue the downward spiral until at least 2020.
Education Spending in the US
When a nation is educated, economic growth is guaranteed. This is definitely observed in OECD statistics, where several European countries noted a 1% increase in growth due to their committed investment in education. In the past years the US has invested a lower amount that the OECD average for elementary and secondary education, whereas at postsecondary level the investment was noted as higher than the OECD average at 2.6 per cent.
Education in the US is not as straightforward as it is in other countries. The US has approximately 3,500 educational establishments, whose finances do not depend on the state. Colleges offer two-year programs, and universities, where one can pursue the whole range of academic titles, from Bachelor’s to Master’s and PhD, usually offer 4-year programs. Status is very important for US universities, as it means that the most prestigious of them can command significantly higher fees.
Compared to Other Nations
When the world’s developed nations value education and invest a significant proportion of their annual budget in education, education funding in the US continued to decline even when the country was prosperous. Between the start of the 21st century and up until entering the second decade of the millennium, education spending in other countries reveals a totally different story than it does in the US.
Countries like the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Portugal significantly increased their investment in education, even in the face of adversity, as some of the aforementioned countries’ economies have declined or, in some cases, collapsed. Nevertheless, the US is continuing to do the exact opposite.
Education spending directly affect students outcomes and this is something observed in the United States also. One might begin to wonder why the US, even though still investing a large proportion of its budget on education, has such low achievement rates and outcomes. The answer seems to be simple; other countries spend their money differently, ensuring the maximum amount of impact, while investing less.
Incredibly, even though class sizes in other countries are bigger than the US, and have considerably less recourses to rely on, investment in the quality of teaching means that outcomes are met and learning is more effective. Since the US is cutting spending on education, they will also have to rethink how that spend is distributed.
Impact of Education Spending on Teaching Quality
There is a distinct correlation between cuts on education spending and teaching quality. This is not due to the quality of teachers leaving pedagogical study, but rather due to the impact decreased spending has on their contracted hours, the amount of professional development they are missing due to having an ever-growing workload to battle with and ultimately on the amount of time they need to invest on lesson preparation, curriculum design and lesson evaluation.
Reduced spending also means less resources in the classroom. This directly impacts the quality of learning, as some schools do not possess the funds for up-to-date classrooms equipped with the marvels of technological advancement. In fact some schools are so underfunded that even the best of teachers, could not possibly make any significant impact, as an ever-competitive job market requires school leavers to already possess the skills needed for a 21st century workplace.
Reduced Education Funding and Social Inequalities
The ever-increasing state of social inequality in the US has lead many children to live in poverty, actively ‘leaving them behind’ with regards to their education, among many other things. Cuts in education spending have a direct and devastating impact to the lower tiers of society, exposing children to many dangers, which not only impact on their learning, but also on their overall welfare.
It is not surprising that one in five children living on the poverty line in the US its diagnosed with asthma, which is a percentage 60 per cent higher than that observed in wealthy children.
Specific Learning Difficulties also have a higher prevalence in the poorest societal tiers, making families whose household income is below $35,000 twice as likely to face issues with SpLD than families whose household income is above $100,000. The more people needing specialist intervention in school, the larger the percentage of the budget to be spent on them.
All the aforementioned directly impact learning and opportunity for those in need. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, children’s basic needs like food and clothing need to first be satisfied in order for impactful learning to take place. When so many children live without the most basic of needs, it is not surprising that education in the US is failing.
The largest amount of the US education spending ends up benefiting the wealthiest tiers of society, and what remains is not enough to trickle down to those in need. In fact, according to OECD reports, poor students are six times more likely to perform lower throughout their education journey, than those from wealthier backgrounds.
The US is investing in education in order to best safeguard its future and ensure its prosperity and success, however, due to inequality of opportunity, very poor lifelong outcomes and worrying unemployment rates are observed when compared to other countries. Finland, for instance, spends much less than the US on education, however it spends more on reducing poverty, which means that learners are in prime position to achieve.
Teachers are wildly underpaid in many of the countries mentioned in this article. They work long hours, take work to do at home in their own time etc., The truth is that American school teachers are actually among the best paid compared to their international peers, however, due to the qualifications needed in order to teach, their graduate peers in any other profession are paid a significantly higher wage.
It is needless to explain how underpaid and overworked teachers can have a negative effects on children’s learning. With a large percentage of teachers willing to change their career path at any given time, it is apparent that the only reason teachers still seem to be in post despite adversity is the amount of care they provide, as well as the amount of personal responsibility and duty they feel for the learners under their care.
Reading and Mathematics
Disappointing SAT scores in reading and mathematics are reviling an even more worrying picture. Learners on average failed to meet their benchmark grades for reading and mathematics, even though the rates have increased significantly since the 1990s.
Much like in achievement rates, the gap between the higher and lower school performers is widening with the National Assessment of Education Progress reporting lack of growth in students scores. The gaps between black and hispanic learners also remain unchanged since 2015.
Again, the social group a learner belongs to defines their predicted achievement, as learners from wealthier families have the opportunity to practice their maths skills using well-designed apps on the tablet or smartphone, compared to the opportunities and resources available to learners from the lower socioeconomic statuses.
This means that status is directly related to learning opportunity and achievement. The US might need to take this into consideration when deciding and distributing next year’s education budget.